Joseph Pease was a leading 18th century industrialist who lived in Darlington, in the county of Durham. Born on 22nd June 1799, he was the second son to parents Edward and Rachel Pease. Joseph was educated at Tatham Academy in Leeds and on completing his education went to work for his father, as a manufacturer of worsted cloth.
By 1829 Joseph had taken over the running of the family business and was a partner in Shildon Colliery, as well as having made significant investments in the expansion of the railway from Darlington to Middlesbrough, where he opened a branch line. By 1830 he had bought enough local collieries to become one of the largest colliery owners in all of County Durham. His business interests extended to iron ore mining in 1852 and in 1954 opened the first iron works in Darlington changing the industrial profile of the town.
He was elected as the Member of Parliament for South Durham after the passing of the Reform Bill, becoming the first Quaker MP. He took up his seat in the House of Commons on 8th February 1833, eventually retiring from Parliament in 1841. During this time Joseph was well known, like many Quakers, for his strong beliefs and active voice on many human rights issues. He refused to take the MP’s Oath of Office and after a committee hearing was allowed to take an affirmation, rather than the Oath he objected to. He remained a campaigner for social and political reform throughout his political career.
Joseph married Emma Gurney on 20th March 1826, the daughter of Joseph Gurney, another successful Quaker. Together they had sixteen children; nine of whom survived, five sons and four daughters.
Their eldest son Joseph Whitwell Pease (1828-1903) became baronet 18th May 1882, and like his father, was also MP for South Durham (1865-1885). Their third son Arthur Pease (1837-1898) followed his older brother into politics and was MP for the Whitby constituency from 1880 to 1885, before representing Darlington from 1895. Edward Pease knew the importance of educating the public and donated £10.000, founding the public lending library that remains at Crown Street today in Darlington. His vision for this investment was to ensure that “people could have a lending library forever”.
One of Joseph’s daughters, Elizabeth Pease, refused to be left out of the politics of her day. She was one of the leading figures behind the Darlington Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, and became regarded as one of the most radical female reformers of the 19th Century.
Joseph died in his Darlington home “Southend” in 1872, succumbing to heart disease. He was laid to rest in the Quaker burial ground in Darlington on 10th February.
A statue of remembrance for Joseph Pease was unveiled in 1875 to mark the jubilee of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and stands in the High Row, in the town centre of Darlington.